Carol MiuI am currently the Chief Product and Analytics Officer at PeopleFun, where I am a product leader and data scientist specializing in free-to-play mobile games.

PeopleFun is a top mobile games studio based in Dallas, Texas known for creating popular word games such as Wordscapesand Word Stacks, which have both skyrocketed to the top of the charts in #1 and #2 in the Word Games category.

Prior to joining the gaming industry, I was a university marketing lecturer and an economic expert in antitrust, intellectual property, and consumer law. Outside of PeopleFun, I’m taking night classes in astrophysics and performing gravitational wave astronomy research with the University of Washington Bothell as a member of LSC (LIGO Scientific Collaboration).

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I didn’t have a linear path to where I am today. When I was young, I wanted to be a paleontologist and in the 5th grade, I wrote that I wanted to be a “businesswoman” in my class yearbook, so I had wanted to explore multiple career paths even as a child.

My late father always emphasized to me that learning never stops in life. When I first became a manager in 2007, I realized that the lack of a growth mindset was the biggest barrier to success. I saw that people who thought “my learning is done” had difficulties with new tasks that require learning new skills, as tech often does. This inspired me to embrace a growth mindset, which focuses on managing for continuous growth, and I’ve brought this leadership approach with me as I continued in my career. I set high, yet achievable, goals that encourage people (myself included) to find their ‘frontier of learning’ so they are continuously reaching beyond their comfort zone and learning new skills.

Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to experience roles in many different fields. I have been an economics litigation consultant, marketing lecturer, data scientist, product manager. Gaming has always been a huge part of my identity, and I was a Finalist at the 2010 Nintendo Wii National Championship.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Finding self-fulfillment has helped me overcome challenges in my career, which for me means always learning and producing value. I strive to be a generalist who sees the big picture and manages an interdisciplinary team and I want to maintain my technical skills as a specialist.

There are several ways I meet this challenge. First, I never wait for people to tell me what I should be doing. I create my own tasks, both strategically and tactically, by observing and assessing what the company’s goals should be and how to achieve them. I also look at what I need to learn to become a better leader, what my direct reports need to learn to grow their careers and contribute more to the company, and how we can improve the collaboration between different teams or colleagues from different disciplines.

Second, I love mentoring others. One of the best ways to produce value for a company is to grow its people. I enjoy working with colleagues across different fields in mobile game development on growth mindset, communication, and career development.

Third, I assign individual contributor work to myself to keep my skills sharp. I directly manage a dozen employees, but I spend 10 to 20 percent of my work time on my specialized technical skills. During holiday weeks when many team members are away from work, I cover their roles on technical work and it feels good to know that I can keep up, even though most of my work is managerial.

Fourth, I have my friends and my hobbies. We can’t expect that everything we have to do at work is exciting and glamorous. I keep my life balanced, fun, and interesting through finding fulfillment across many areas of my life, not just in my work. There’s a lot of hard work and perseverance required to improve the process, and technical work can seem repetitive at times, but all this work and fulfillment in your personal life is necessary to grow a company.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Growing the team at PeopleFun! I was the first employee on the Product team and built a team of product managers, data analysts, and user researchers from two to 12 employees, while tripling company revenue in just two years. Employing growth leadership challenged the team to innovate beyond their individual disciplines, which inspired the creation of new events and features for our players.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Having a growth mindset. If I’m too comfortable and everything is easy, I’m probably not learning. I love to be challenged — to be on the frontier of growth where I’m a bit uncomfortable because there are things I don’t already know and I’m working hard to level-up fast.

How do you maintain a work-life balance? Is there such a thing?

Yes, there is such a thing! People sometimes mistake work-life balance for life over work (or work over life) but it can be difficult to find balance if they are thought of as two separate things. I need both my career and my family to feel whole — I have a 5-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son, and using a growth mindset and servant leadership in my personal life helps me function as a mom.

We’re all at home together during the pandemic, so my husband and I trade-off managing the kids’ virtual learning and activity schedules from piano lessons to ballet class to reading and math. A couple days per week, I’ll take a 30-minute break during my workday to cook lunch with my kids — they love that quality time with Mom, plus learn a life skill (they’ll need to cook for themselves one day!).

My kids have already become huge gamers and are my little helpers since I’m working at home right now. My daughter loves Wordscapes, especially our new Butterfly Event, and my son loves Blockscapes. During weekends, I’ll spend a few hours in the evening preparing for the work week ahead but most of it is family time. We’ll watch a movie, build something together, go to the park, go for a drive, cook together, and/or engage in a special activity such as going to the dinosaur drive-thru.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in the mobile gaming industry?

To excel in the mobile gaming industry, understanding your player base is one of the most important pillars to building a successful game. Don’t just make a game that you want to play, but make a game that your players want to play.

No matter what industry you go into, it’s important to proactively learn skills on your own rather than waiting for someone to teach you. Becoming a structured thinker and strong communicator helps you develop frameworks for solving problems, improve your communication skills and collaborate on a multidisciplinary team.

Your career path doesn’t need to be linear as long as you are learning and growing. I’ve switched industries several times and within gaming, I’ve had friends switch from design to production to product management which has helped them evolve their career. If you can be flexible, yet persistent, it will help you realize there can be many solutions to one problem and put you in a better position to help the team better execute.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes, there are long-standing social stereotypes that can seep into the workplace. More often than not, men are judged by their potential while women are judged by their outcomes. However, it’s important for men and women to be judged equally on both attributes, not just one over the other.

Seeking out mentors and advocates who will be honest with you can help you better understand the areas in which you need to grow and overcome social stereotypes in the workplace.

Continuously look for ways that you can challenge yourself — take a leap and volunteer for important initiatives at your company even if you’re not sure that you will succeed. If you’re 100 percent sure you’ll succeed before you even try, then the task may not be challenging enough. Always be at the “frontier of learning” where things feel a little uncomfortable, but that means you’re challenging yourself and learning new skills — which will help you break more barriers in the long-run.

What do you think companies can do to support the progress of the careers of women working in technology?

Set high expectations for all employees, regardless of gender, and embrace a culture of ownership. It’s also important that leaders reflect on diversity, equity, and inclusion in their own companies and offer equal access to leadership coaching on communication and strategy. This, in turn, provides employees with a more equitable share of voice within the company.

What is the best leadership or career advice you’ve received?

One of my mentors told me to optimize for effectiveness, not likeability. I’m being paid to drive business results for the company, not to win Miss Congeniality.

What resources do you recommend for working in tech?

I recommend checking out these books, podcasts, and sites to deepen your knowledge on mobile and tech:

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